Generations of Good Food, a compilation of recipes by Eleanor Gaccetta, gives us a glimpse of how to prepare pasta recipes properly.
Generations of Good Food is a compilation of recipes by Eleanor Gaccetta that have been part of the family’s tradition and history for more than six generations. The book features main dishes, breads, pies, cookies, and candy. Aside from pastries and traditional meals, Gaccetta also shares her knowledge in preparing excellent pasta recipes. Great pasta recipes require basic knowledge of recognizing good pasta and the basic steps in cooking pasta.
Recognizing excellent pasta quality is always the first essential step to cooking a superb pasta meal.
Traditionally, Italian dried pasta is made from durum wheat semolina. The right mixture of ingredients can make or break a good pasta. The raw materials and the mixing of different grains all contribute to the quality of dried pasta. Italian dried pasta is known for its good protein content. Other features of a good quality pasta include color, texture, cooking style, and nutritional composition.
The pasta’s color will reveal how long the pasta was subjected to high heat. Excellent pasta is dried slowly under low heat. The ideal drying phase should bring moisture humidity between 33 to 35% to the maximum legal parameter of 12.5 %. Deep yellow pasta gives a bitter taste as they were dried at a high temperature instead of the moderate 80-90 °C.
We often hear “al dente,” which means “to the tooth” or still firm when bitten. It is used to identify the ideal consistency for pasta. Cooking the al dente way means cooking the pasta for only a brief time, and slightly undercooked. Most Italians prefer cooking pasta beyond the al dente stage, soft but not mushy.
An excellent pasta has a rough texture. The porous feature allows the pasta to absorb the toppings and the sauce better, making the dish tastier. Rough-textured pasta is usually drawn in bronze. Smoother pasta is drawn using Teflon.
Good quality pasta contains an excellent nutritional composition. The formula for most Italian pasta producers is that a 100-gram pasta must have not less than 10.50% of protein with a maximum humidity content of 12.50%.
Experts have higher standards when choosing their pasta, but the items mentioned above should be sufficient in recognizing excellent quality pasta for home cooking. However, quality is just the other half of the trick. The next part is cooking the pasta the right way.
Cooking pasta always begins with salted boiling water. Make sure the water is boiling before adding the pasta. Some Italians may put a lid on the pot after adding the pasta to make it boil faster. The majority do not put the lid on because they can stir the pasta to ensure it cooks consistently.
According to lifeinitaly.com, there is one trick to preparing pasta,
“Cook the pasta as indicated on the package, stirring the pasta often to avoid it sticking. Now, cooking pasta is simple, and there are no secrets. But there is one trick. Pasta is like a sponge: it absorbs the fluid in which it’s immersed. Cooking it immersed in water is ok, but cooking it immersed in the sauce is better! The sauce will flavor it from the inside.”
The trick is to wait one whole minute before cooking time is over before pouring a teaspoon or two of the starch-laden cooking water from the pan as you are heating the sauce. Remove any meat (sausage and/or meatballs) from the sauce before you add the pasta to finish cooking. Drain the pasta in a colander and add to the sauce. Pasta acts like a sponge, and it absorbs the fluid in which it is immersed, so what better way to make your pasta tastier than to dip it in the sauce. Continue boiling the pasta and sauce for another minute before serving it to your guests or family.